|Castres second-rower Rodrigo Capó Ortega|
2014 is a crucial year for Uruguayan rugby as it is the year in which the country will or will not participate at Rugby World Cup 2015. After narrowly missing out on qualifying for Rugby World Cups 2007 and 2011 Uruguay has taken administrative steps to help lift the level of Los Teros. Improved facilities in Montevideo combined with a detailed international agenda have Uruguay in a better position than was the case four years ago.
The new high performance centre at the Estadio Charrúa has the rugby public in the Uruguayan capital enthused. Uruguay´s players will now be able to train in quality facilities and do so in what is rugby controlled. With the URU now effectively running the Estadio Charrúa the expectations are that rugby in the country will benefit tremendously at all levels including the test team.
Uruguay´s test team, Los Teros, is looking to turn around difficult years which saw the team miss out by one point on playing in Rugby World Cup 2007. Despite winning the return match 18-12 with fourteen players it was Portugal who qualified due to the Europeans having won the first match 12-5. Having finished as Americas 3 behind Canada and the USA Uruguay took on Kazakhstan in an intercontinental elimination match in 2010 and after winning in July advanced to the Final Place Play-Off series against Romania in November 2010.
The first match was a 21-21 draw in Montevideo but Romania showed its superiority to win the return fixture 39-12 and secure the last place at Rugby World Cup 2015. Uruguay will be aiming to make it to the repercharge final again this year and will be up against a weaker opponent. Romania was Europe 3 due to Russia having claimed second spot after the Oaks refused to select players based abroad during the initial stages of Rugby World Cup qualification.
For 2015 Romania is implementing no such restrictions and is set to qualify as one of the top two European sides meaning Uruguay will face a different team, likely Russia. The Russians have not impressed since 2011 with Russia having been beaten badly by the likes of Canada, Japan and the USA. Uruguay, in contrast, has shown improvements with new found competitiveness in the 2013 Americas Rugby Championship in Canada in addition to wins over Portugal and Spain.
The country also has some youngster exposed to the European game with Castres veteran Rodrigo Capó Ortega being joined by scrumhalf Agustín Ormaechaea in France. Ormaechea has been in fine form for Mont de Marsan in the Pro d2. The team was relegated from the Top 14 last season and this season the Uruguayan scrumhalf has obtained the starting position. In lower divisions and in Italy the likes of Guille Lijstentein, Felipe Berchesi, Jerónimo Etcheverry, Alberto Román, Mario Sagario and Juan Diego Ormaechea have all been getting plenty of opportunities.
These players in combination with the country´s best players based in South America will join forces for Los Teros for international duty initially in the Americas 2 Home and Away Play-Off series against the USA in March and in subsequent competitions throughout the year. Firstly though the focus will be on Rugby Sevens with Uruguay to host the Punta del Este Sevens starting tomorrow before also playing in competitions in Argentina, Chile and the USA this month.
After March the focus will be on the South American Championship in May and the IRB Nations Cup in June. Uruguay is set to face Romania, Russia and Emerging Ireland in Bucharest while Uruguay will then be involved in the Americas Rugby Championship in October. Should the USA defeat Uruguay in March, then Uruguay will, after surely overcoming Asia 2, face the winner of Europe 3 v Africa 2 home and away in November. The winner will qualify as the Play-Off Winner for Rugby World Cup 2015. The Americas 3 v Asia 2 match remains unconfirmed but July is the likely choice.
2014 Key Dates
3-4 Punta Del Este Sevens
11-12 Mar del Plata Sevens
18-19 Viña del Mar Sevens
24-26 USA Sevens
22 RWC 2015 Qualification Uruguay v USA, Estadio Charrúa, Montevideo
29 RWC 2015 Qualification USA v Uruguay, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Atlanta
South American Championship
IRB Nations Cup
Americas Rugby Championship
Rugby World Cup Qualification Repercharge